AMSTERDAM - In the end, 19 points was too big a hole for the Amsterdam football team to dig itself out of.
The Rugged Rams held the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Spartans off the scoreboard for slightly less than half the game as they mounted a comeback that fell just short in a 32-22 loss at Lynch Literacy Academy on Saturday.
Amsterdam pulled itself to within three points after quarterback Geo Rodriguez lofted a pass over the Burnt Hills defense and into the arms of Louis Laboy for a 33-yard touchdown with 3:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Amsterdam’s Hector Diaz (33) runs the ball as Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s Nico Fragale tries to make the tackle as Nate Sawyer closes in during Saturday’s Class A Northwest Division game at Lynch Literacy Academy in Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
From there, the Rugged Rams had two chances to get a potential game-winning touchdown.
The first opportunity was split between the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth when Rodriguez engineered a drive that began on the Amsterdam 23-yard line, but stalled on the Burnt Hills 13 on a fourth-and-two.
With kicker Marcus Pritchard ready to kick a potential game-tying field goal, Amsterdam coach Doug Edick and his staff decided to go for the lead. However, Rodriguez's pass fell incomplete and the Spartans took over on downs.
"It was hit or miss," Edick said. "We have a kicker that we thought could make it, but we had a good play and we just missed on it. That's all."
When the Spartans got the ball back, they followed it up with a masterful 11-play drive that ran the game clock down to about four minutes. Burnt Hills moved the ball to the Amsterdam 10, but a personal foul penalty moved the ball back to the 21, where the drive stalled. After two incompletions, the Rams got the ball back.
But not for long as Mike Danz, who previously had an attempt at a pick go through his hands, stepped in front of Rodriguez's pass for the interception.
"It was nice to see him be able to bounce back and make one," Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell said. "That was a huge moment for us to be able to have that happen. Credit to Mike. He hung in there and made a nice play on a well-thrown ball."
Four plays later, Dan Porter scored on a 7-yard touchdown run to seal the victory.
"I know I should never have thrown that interception," said Rodriguez, who also ran for a touchdown. "I tried to zoom it in there when I should have just lobbed it over. I take blame for the loss, but there's only so much you can do. The line blocked great. The backs ran the ball well. The receivers did well. Linebackers and defense played well. They all played great."
As soon as the clock ran out on the Rugged Rams' comeback attempt, Edick and his staff were instilling the team with confidence for a possible rematch with the Spartans (5-1 overall, 4-0 Class A Northwest).
Amsterdam (4-2 overall, 2-1 Class A Northwest) locked up the second seed in the division and will face the third-place team out of the Southeast Division in two weeks at Lynch.
"That was a great effort," Edick said. "These kids left everything on the field. We can build toward that in the playoffs. We have South High next week and then the playoffs starts a new season."
Rodriguez said "everyone" expected the Spartans to blow them out 56-0, and when the Rugged Rams fell behind 19-0 after the first play of the second quarter, it looked as though the Spartans were on their way.
"We were all panicking on the sidelines," Rodriguez said. "Everybody said it was going to be a blowout. Then it was 19-0 and our coach said, 'everybody, calm down, relax and keep your heads, do what you have to do and we'll get the win.' We didn't get the win, but we played as hard as we could."
After a touchdown run by Josh Quesada and two by Dan Porter, the Rugged Rams answered with an 81-yard drive in the second quarter, which was aided by a 15-yard face-mask and a personal foul against the Spartans. Rodriguez finished the drive when he dove into the end zone with 7:05 left in the second quarter.
The Spartans answered with 52.6 seconds left in the half when Quesada scored on a 26-yard run to give them a 25-7 lead.
"Josh was the difference maker with his ability," Shell said. "He's a real shifty back. He has great vision. He did a great job in the return game, making it count with some big runs. It was huge. He was definitely a heck of a player for us today."
Stanavich answered immediately. After being held to negative yardage for most of the first half, he turned his day around with a 73-yard touchdown run. Then Rodriguez hit Isiah Martin in the end zone for two points, pulling the Rams to within 10 points, 25-15.
"Brett's an excellent player and he's just explosive," Rodriguez said. "You never know when he's going to break one for 40 or 50 yards. Coach ran the play and he just broke it. He's a fast player. He's like a hyena out there. Nobody can catch him."
With the win, the Spartans clinched the top seed in the Northwest Division and will face the fourth-place team out of the Southeast.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 32, Amsterdam 22
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake13 12 0 7 - 32
Amsterdam0 15 7 0 - 22
BH - Quesada 3 run (McConnell kick), 5:51.
BH - Porter 2 run (kick failed), 3:41
BH - Porter 6 run (kick failed), 11:54
A - Rodriguez 1 run (Pritchard kick), 7:05
BH - Quesada 26 run (kick blocked), 5:26
A - Stanavich 73 run (Martin pass from Rodriguez), 39.4
A - Laboy 33 pass from Rodriguez (Pritchard kick), 3:17
BH - Porter 7 run (McConnell kick), 2:01.